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BPCE Perol Declines to Comment on Bank-Merger Conflict Charges

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Francois Perol, chairman of the Groupe BPCE, declined to comment on prosecutors’ charges of a conflict of interest related to the 2009 merger that created the second-largest French lender by branches.

Perol said he “has no intention of making a comment,” when reached by Bloomberg.

The banker was the deputy chief of staff for President Nicolas Sarkozy between 2007 and 2009. During that time, he worked on the merger of Banque Populaire and Caisse d’Epargne, which created Groupe BPCE. Perol was named head of the merged entity in February 2009.

Prosecutors in France’s financial crimes branch are investigating a possible conflict of interest in Perol’s appointment. French law bans public servants from working in companies they advised or signed a contract with during their mandate.

Prior to his Elysee-adviser position, Perol was a managing partner at Rothschild Bank in Paris, where he advised on the creation of Natixis SA, a unit of BPCE.

Perol said back in 2009 that he only played an advisory role on the BPCE dossier when he worked for Sarkozy, and therefore wasn’t barred from heading the bank, Agence France-Presse reported.

He was questioned by a financial judge “for several hours” yesterday in Paris, AFP said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net

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